Disclaimer: Don't own FFXV
He looked around the small apartment, feeling utterly lost. 05953234, no….he had a new designation now, a human name. Prompto had been feeling lost since he had been given his new mission. A mission! When he'd been summoned by Chief Besithia without the rest of his unit, he had assumed the time had come and he was to be decommissioned. It had been threatened enough times after all.
Instead he'd been thrown into intensive training of a very different kind, his normal lab times altered, everything he knew changed. It had been strange and scary, despite MT's not being supposed to feel fear. He no longer spent hours every week hooked up to an IV filled with black sludge that made his body burn and left him feeling disconnected from it for hours or days. Instead there had been what the scientists had called 'surgeries' where he'd been strapped down but then he'd deactivated for some reason, would wake in a sterile room where tests were run.
They said he was no longer to be a standard unit and while combat training had still been a part of things, it had no longer been the main aspect. Infiltration, information gathering, memorisation, all of that had become important but the most important part had been how to act human. That had been the hardest part and he still thought he wasn't any good, but he'd been pronounces passable enough.
He'd been given a fake family history, listing his ancestry as Lucian and Tenebraean, with his home being Lestallum. As the second biggest city in Lucis, it was easier to hide his history there, a small community would be too easy to track and find out that no one knew him. Every summer 'vacation' from school, he would return 'home' to visit 'family'. In reality he would be taken to a base to debrief and for the further surgeries.
He would never become one with armour like he had been created for, instead the changes were all internal. With each surgery, more of the physical form would be replaced with the mechanical, all designed to be undetectable.
He had made it into the city and to the apartment that had been procured for his use. It had come furnished and with some things he hadn't seen outside of videos and photos in training. He would have to ensure he knew everything well and as quickly as possible.
Tomorrow, the real mission began, he had to fool everyone that he was just another human 'teenager' attending the best school in the country on scholarship. Once was accepted then he had to get close to the Prince and somehow become his 'friend'.
He was scared, he knew if he messed up the mission then he would be decommissioned for sure. This was his last chance to prove his worth to the Empire and if he failed…he would have disgraced his unit even further which meant it wouldn't be a quick decommissioning. He had to prove he was worthy of the work they were putting into him; he had been created to serve the greater glory of the Empire, and he wanted to fulfil his duty.
He stood before the mirror, staring at the image it revealed. The uniform was better than the strange civilian clothing, but it still felt strange. He'd automatically ensured the uniform was perfect but then hesitated. All of the research he'd been shown, including surveillance photos of the school itself, showed that humans his age were what he'd heard soldiers call 'sloppy'. It was hard but he forced himself to mess his hair up a bit, loosen the tie a little, and pull the shirt out a little from the trousers as well.
Having hair was still taking some getting used to, MT's heads were kept very closely shaved until they fully converted. He'd been taught how to care for and 'style' it as well as having seen all the different ways civilians 'styled' it. He had to fit in, he just had to.
Once as satisfied as possible with his appearance he picked up the school bag that had been supplied and left the apartment, locking it behind him, walking the distance to the school easily.
Noctis almost sprawled in his chair, bored out of his mind. The first day of high school and already it was more of the same; everyone either wanting to cosy up to the Prince, or completely ignored him for the same reason. He hated school but would private tutoring be any better? Not to mention history flat out bored him since he'd been spoon fed it since birth.
He glanced up as the door opened, another student walked in, whispers immediately starting up. He didn't have to hear them to know what they were saying, all based off the guys appearance…Niff. Just because he was blond and had blue eyes….features also strong in those from Tenebrae, including the Oracle herself! And even some Lucians had fairer colouring. He looked…unsure, it was very subtle, but he was used to reading politicians…and Cor.
Of course, the only empty seat left was the one beside him and the other teen had noticed that, hesitant blue eyes meeting his. He nodded in return because what else was he meant to do? The class was full, and he had to sit somewhere. The blond approached and offered a lopsided kind of smile.
"Hi, I'm Prompto," he offered as he sat.
"Noctis," he returned even though it wasn't needed, still the guy wasn't fawning over him or giving him the cold shoulder and if he was going to be stuck beside him all year then at least polite conversation might make a nice change. There was something about the way he spoke… "You're not from Insomnia."
The blond blinked but then shrugged. "Lestallum, Dad's from Tenebrae though, so yeah, weird accent. They wanted me to have a chance at a better education, so I got packed off here."
Noctis nodded. Even if he'd attended a lower ranked school, it would have been better than one even in Lestallum, he'd seen the education statistics for the rest of Lucis and they were bad. He saw the blond tug at his tie uncomfortable and smirked slightly, he doubted his old school had a uniform. "You can loosen it a little more before anyone will comment," he told him. His own was as loose as was allowed, he doubted anyone would actually say something if he took the horrid thing off but he didn't want the other students snide comments over favouritism all over a tie. "And welcome to Insomnia," he whispered as the teacher called them to order.
He'd met the Prince! He hadn't even had to do anything to arrange the meeting. The last seat in the class had been the one beside him. What had been the chances of that? He'd even spoken with him which had felt strange.
He had been told that people in Insomnia looked down on those from outside, but he hadn't detected any of that, if anything the Prince had seemed interested. He'd spent his entire existence learning to read the tones and body language of his superiors and the scientists, but the Prince wasn't one of them. Were the tells the same?
He'd read everything there was on the Prince, Imperial intelligence and collected articles, even information from a spy in the Citadel. He still didn't feel prepared for trying to get close to him but that was his mission and he could not fail.
Noctis nodded as Prompto sat down beside him, a week in and he thought that maybe the blond was different from their classmates. He hadn't tried asking about being a Prince or tried to force his company on him. He'd chat with him, but it was about classwork or answering his questions on the world outside the Wall. When he asked questions, it was about the living in the city or where to find certain places. It was different and nice.
"Join me for lunch?" he offered casually when the bell rang.
Prompto paused, looking up at him, startled. Noctis tried not to look nervous or anything but then Prompto offered a small smile. "Okay." He picked his bag up and they left the classroom together, heading out onto the school grounds.
"Enjoying the city?" he asked as they sat to eat.
"It's a big change," Prompto admitted as he got out his own lunch. "Living on my own's weird too but…I think I like it."
"It is a big change," Noctis agreed. Even with Iggy over all the time, it was strange living in the apartment, strange but good. "What's your favourite thing about living here so far?"
Prompto paused to consider. "Other than being safe because of the Wall? Touch choice but…I love how alive the city is, at all hours. There's just so many people, so much to see."
Noctis nodded, pushing some well hidden veggies to the side, catching Prompto watching and he shrugged. "I don't like vegetables."
"So why pack them?"
"I don't, Ignis, my Adviser does," he grumbled.
"Swap?" Prompto offered an apple and Noctis nodded, fruit was better than vegetables.
Prompto sat on the couch and found himself smiling. He'd had lunch with the Prince, that had to be a good sign. He pulled out the phone to send his progress report, there wasn't a lot yet but at least he could show some progress. It was a good start; the Prince didn't want just another gawking classmate or someone out to use him to better their own position. He had to move slowly, it would take a lot of time before he'd be able to get any real information to send back, unless they truly were interested in what games the Prince played or that he tended to doze off in Lucian history classes?
Ignis knew something was up with his charge and friend, but he hadn't brought it up, letting Noctis come to him in his own time. He seemed more relaxed about school though which was good and Ignis hoped it meant he had finally made a friend. The school did its own background checks so for now there was no rush to have one run by the Crown.
So he wasn't too surprised when he went to pick Noctis up and found him walking from the school with another student, the two talking quietly. The blond offered the Prince a quick grin before waving and ducking off through the crowds. That was good, he wasn't trying to cosy up too much.
"Good afternoon Noctis."
"Specs," Noctis greeted, slipping into the car and then sighing when their eyes met. "His name is Prompto Argentum. He's from Lestallum but his Dad's from Tenebrae. His parents wanted him to have the chance of a better education so sent him to the city with a partial scholarship due to his grades. Happy?"
"He passed the schools' checks so that is fine for now. Should you wish to pursue more than a school acquaintance then a deeper check will be needed," Ignis warned.
"I know. He's…he's not like the others. Maybe because he's not from Insomnia, he doesn't look at me like they do."
Ignis glanced in the rear-view mirror to see Noctis staring out at the city. "Well, take your time."
Noctis laughed, seeing the startled look on Prompto's face before the blond laughed too. "Here," he offered a piece of the cake Ignis had packed him and Prompto hesitated, looking at Noctis for clarification so he nodded.
Prompto took it and bit in, eyes widening in surprise. "This is really good."
"I'll tell Specs you like it."
"Specs?" Prompto asked, headed tilted slightly to the side.
"My Adviser, Ignis, I call him Specs because he wears glasses."
"Oh, and he packed you cake?"
"He made it," Noctis clarified. "He's really into cooking."
"Oh, well he's great," Prompto offered and Noctis nodded.
"I'll tell him you said so." He took a bite of his own piece. "Hey Prompto?"
"Are we…" he took a deep breath. "Are we friends?" he asked and Prompto stared at him before shrugging, looking away.
"Are we?" he asked quietly, something…vulnerable in his tone. "I…I've never had a friend before."
Noctis swallowed and then hesitantly reached out to touch his arm. Prompto looked up at him with wide eyes and Noctis smiled at him. "Yeah, we're friends," he decided and Prompto grinned at him. "It's complicated, because of who I am. You know the school did a background check, that it does for every student?"
"Yeah, drove my parents crazy," Prompto shrugged, watching him curiously.
"Well, being my friend outside of just at school, a deeper check would need to be done. Once it clears we could exchange phone numbers, call, text, hang out at the arcade, eventually go to each other's place if we want."
Noctis was worried the whole thing would scare Prompto away but it had been almost two months and Ignis had been dropping rather pointed hints about better security checks. He was also worried that someone would see that Prompto wasn't from Insomnia, that he was only half Lucian at all…and purposely wreck his check to keep him away.
"Okay," Prompto agreed and Noctis relaxed a bit, one hurdle down.
Prompto immediately sent the alert that a deeper security check was to be run. He'd hidden his worry from the Prince, not wanting him to see it. he was terrified they would find something, that his cover would be blown or at least not pass well enough to be cleared for remaining close to the Prince. If that happened, then he would be taken by the Crown for interrogation and dismantling, to give them better insight into the program, or he would be decommissioned for failing his mission.
He was getting closer to the Prince, but he still didn't think he had sent back any useful intel on him, though he had yet to be reprimanded so maybe it could be used for something. Life in Insomnia was beyond anything training had prepared him for, but he had adapted. He thought he was doing a good job at being a 'teenager' too. Keeping up his training was very difficult, but he did his best, it was why he ran everywhere. He just hoped his weapons skills wouldn't deteriorate too badly before summer and he was tested.
Gladio watched the two teens playing arcade games. Part of him was glad Noctis had finally made a friend while another part wasn't sure about the kid. He seemed nice enough but how could they be sure he wasn't trying to use Noctis? He hoped for Noct's sake that the blond was genuine, he'd never seen him so relaxed around someone other than them before.
They were both socially awkward, isolated from classmates (Noct due to being the Prince and Prompto due to being from Lestallum), and massive dorks. Really, they couldn't have picked a better option for a friend but Gladio wondered how long it would last. Prompto's parents paid for his apartment and he had a scholarship to help pay for school…what would happen once high school was over? Would the kid look for work or further education in the city to stay friends or would he return home? If he did then they wouldn't be allowed to communicate by anything except thoroughly checked letters for both their safety and the odds of a friendship surviving that were slim.
Prompto stood and grinned at Noctis as they grabbed their things. "We're free!" he cheered, making Noctis chuckle softly. They left the classroom and headed out to where Ignis was waiting with the car. The first year of high school was done.
"Have a good day?" Ignis asked as they joined him.
"It's even better now it's done," Prompto told him.
Ignis chuckled but started driving, heading for Noctis' apartment. They headed up to find he had already set out snacks and drinks for their movie/game night. "When do you leave for Lestallum?" Ignis asked as Prompto snagged some chips before flopping on the couch.
"Day after tomorrow."
"Why so soon?" Noctis asked, sounding a little...upset?
"Lestallum isn't exactly close Noct, takes time to hitch and walk there and then back here so I have to leave soon if I want to spend any time with my parents."
That had them both staring at him though he wasn't sure why.
"You're going to walk?" Noctis finally asked and Prompto nodded. "That's…Specs?"
"Is that how you came to Insomnia?" Ignis asked.
"Yeah, how else was I going to get here?"
"Couldn't someone drive you?" Ignis asked and he shook his head. "I see… I had better get a start on dinner, have fun."
Noctis looked up as Ignis joined him. "Prom home safe?" he asked, and Iggy nodded, not that he'd expected anything else. "Ignis…"
"There is a Glaive mission leaving the same day, heading out passed Hammerhead. I have spoken with Captain Drautos, they will give Prompto a lift that far. Hopefully he can find a ride there."
It was better than nothing but still…he'd seen the maps; it was a very long way to Lestallum and the distance between some of the Havens was dangerous for someone on foot. Yeah, Prompto had made it once but making the trip twice a year… if he got hurt out there…
"Can't I just requisition a car and driver to take him?" Noctis grumbled.
"You'd have to speak with your Father or the Marshal about that, but I doubt it, unless they can come up with some kind of business in or near the city."
Noctis nodded, unfortunately, protecting his friend wouldn't be a good enough reason for most. He could understand why, they couldn't just use Crown resources to ferry people about but Prompto was his friend and he was worried about him.
Prompto tipped his head and then stopped walking, waiting. The sound grew closer and then the dropship moved to hover, the ramp lowering. He shouldered his bag better and walked towards it, ignoring the other MT's that moved to ensure he boarded. He stepped into an empty set of restraints, having to hold on with one hand since he lacked the extra bulk of armour to hold him securely. He closed his eyes, resting, knowing he would get very little once they arrived.
The pitch of the engines changed after a while and he opened his eyes, waiting until the ship powered down, the restraints lifting and then he followed the others out. He saw the waiting scientists and turned towards them, seeing a soldier also join the group.
"Unit 05953234 reporting as ordered," he stated levelly.
"It looks so…human," the soldier stated, and he found himself having to fight the urge to reply.
A year of living as a human may have started instilling some bad, not to mention dangerous, habits.
"Of course, how else was it to succeed in its mission?" one of the scientists sneered. "Debrief it first then we shall begin our work."
"Follow me," the soldier ordered and Pr..234 obeyed.
They entered a metallic room and he wasn't told to sit so he stood at attention and answered every question asked with complete honesty, staring straight at the wall. It was easy to fall back on his training, to let himself become detached from what was happening.
A few hours later he lay naked on a surgical table, feeling the restraints tighten on his limbs, heard the monitors being turned on, felt the pinch of an IV being inserted. The table was cold, but the air was colder as masked scientists approached, instruments in hand. Everything became fuzzy and then he shut down.